Friday, April 20, 2012

Rubio Does Diplomacy

Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio has been carving out a niche in foreign policy since he joined the chamber last year (something I blogged about last fall). But the Florida Republican -- and a top GOP vice presidential contender -- hadn't done any high-profile overseas diplomacy until last weekend, when he made a trip to Cartagena, Colombia for the sixth annual Summit of the Americas, a gathering of the leaders of the Western Hemisphere.

The trip was natural enough from a policy standpoint for the senator -- a bilingual Cuban-American and the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. But the politics of the visit are also unmistakeable, as I wrote about for Roll Call this week. Much of Rubio's cache as a potential VP pick for presumptive GOP presidential Mitt Romney stems from his appeal to Latino-American voters. But it turns out that outside of Florida and D.C., he is an unknown quantity to much of that constituency. Vice presidential nominees are also often looked to to bring national security and foreign affairs chops to the ticket, a particular plus in this case since Romney has focused on his business and management acumen.

Rubio smartly focused most of his media outreach in Cartagena to the Spanish-speaking outlets. So combined with the Secret Service prostitution scandal, which dominated the English-language news coverage out of the Summit, his trip flew almost entirely under the radar in Washington. But it demonstrates that, as much as he may deny it, he and his advisors are pursuing a savvy strategy to raise his profile and his gravitas within key political spheres, maybe for 2012, maybe beyond.

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